If I were to name one historic personality who would have loved today’s online collaborative environment, it would most likely be Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday we are celebrating today the 12th of February 2013.
What has collaborative learning got to do with Abraham Lincoln, you may ask. Well, as an exceptional listener who never hesitated to ask questions with a childlike simplicity, Lincoln amassed a fund of knowledge that was very largely made up of information obtained in conversation. This was mentioned by William O. Stoddard in his book “Inside the White House in War Times: Memoires and Reports of Lincoln’s Secretary”. In an age and time when access to books and thereby to knowledge was limited, Lincoln had a remarkable zeal and thirst for knowledge which led him to self-tutor himself and be admitted to the bar. Stoddard made it a point to mention that most of the knowledge that Lincoln exhibited was rarely found in books. It was his peer to peer interactions that fuelled his thirst for knowledge.
Abraham Lincoln would most likely have loved today’s online collaborative environment and the opportunities of informal learning that today’s social media offer. The virtual conversations with like-minded individuals across organizations is indeed a great platform where employees can interact with and learn from each other and it is in the interests of organizations to provide such a platform to their employees. It not only broadens their horizons but also provides opportunities to take initiative and find creative solutions to their problems.
Informal learning happens anyway, with or without the intervention of organizations. However, what happens when an organization creates a collaborative environment for their workforce is that it facilitates more cooperation and interaction among its workforce. I am more likely to post a query in a corporate discussion forum than address it to a specific individual and when such a query is posted, it is most likely answered by another individual with equal zeal and enthusiasm to share his knowledge. I get the solution to a problem and most importantly, others with similar problems would also have got the solution at the same time.
Unlike what Abraham Lincoln had to endure – walk miles to borrow a book from the library – individuals looking for knowledge today don’t have to go that far. They can actually access books located thousands of miles away from the comfort of their homes. Surely, Abraham Lincoln would have loved to live in today’s world. Don’t you think so?